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Pope to DRC Bishops: Be prophets of reconciliation and peace

Pope Francis meets with the Catholic Bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and urges them to recall that God is close to them in their ministry to be prophets for the Congolese people.

By Devin Watkins

On the fourth and final day of his Apostolic Journey to the DRC, Pope Francis met with the country’s Bishops at the headquarters of the National Bishops’ Conference (CENCO).

In his address, the Pope apologized for making the Bishops prepare twice for his visit, since he was originally scheduled to visit in July 2022.

He also spoke to them about their mission to build up the Congolese people’s faith and to protect “the beauty of Creation” in the vastness of DR Congo’s verdant forest.

The local Church, he added, also suffers with her people in their trials, as well as rejoicing their joys.

“I see Jesus suffering in the history of this people, crucified and oppressed, devastated by ruthless violence, marred by innocent suffering, forced to live with the tainted waters of corruption and injustice that pollute society, and to suffer poverty in so many of its children.”

Closeness to God in prayer

Pope Francis went on to speak to the Bishops about the “closeness of God and prophecy for the people.”

He urged them to find consolation in God’s closeness, in order to help others “draw closer to the Good Shepherd”.

The Pope denounced all trappings of power and self-advancement among the Bishops, saying such attitudes lead them to neglect their relationship with Christ in prayer.

“When we cherish our closeness to God,” he said, “we feel drawn towards our people and will always feel compassion for those entrusted to our care.”

The pastoral ministry of Bishops must “touch wounds and communicate God’s closeness”, so that the Congolese people may be lifted from their “humiliation and oppression.”

Prophets to root out injustice

The Pope then turned to the theme of prophecy, which the Bishops should embrace so that the word might awaken within them an “unbridled restlessness” to lead others to God.

“The word of God is a fire that burns within and impels us to go forth! This, then, is what we are as Bishops: men set afire by the word of God, sent forth with apostolic zeal towards the people of God!”

Pope Francis said God calls His prophets to help build a new chapter of history in the midst of a world filled with perversity and injustice.

The poisons of hatred, resentment, and violence must be rooted from society, along with corruption and exploitation, he added.

Proclaiming the word, not politics

Yet, said the Pope, Christian prophecy should not be confused with political activism, since Bishops are called to “proclaim the word, awaken consciences, denounce evil, and encourage those who are broken-hearted and lacking hope.”

He invited the Bishops to remain close to their priests and pastoral workers and to set a good example of forgiveness and evangelical simplicity.

“I urge you not to neglect dialogue with God or to let the flame of prophecy be extinguished by an ambiguous relationship to the powers that be, or by a complacent and routine life.”

Witnesses of mercy in face of violence

In conclusion, Pope Francis urged the Bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo to look to the example of the late Archbishop Christophe Munzihirwa.

The Jesuit Archbishop was “a courageous shepherd and prophetic voice” and was murdered in a city square in 1996 for defending his people.

“Be witnesses,” he said, “of mercy and reconciliation amid the violence unleashed not only by the exploitation of resources and by ethnic and tribal conflicts, but also and above all by the dark power of the evil one, the enemy of God and humanity.”

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